The “Queen Bee” syndrome is a myth, according to researchers who argue that professional women keep other females out.
Instead, new research blames the lack of women in senior roles on men’s determination to retain power at the top, a research team at Columbia Business School, concludes.
This new research looks at top management teams in 1,500 companies over a 20-year period and finds that rather than women putting female subordinates down, women are more likely to make senior positions where a woman had been appointed chief executive.
When Women Are Appointed to a New Role
However, when a woman is appointed to a senior role that is not at the top of the management team, the likelihood of other females being appointed falls by 50 percent.
Helen Fraser of the research team at Columbia says: “Women face an implicit quota, where firms seek to maintain a small number of women on their top management team, usually only one.”
“While firms gain legitimacy from having women in top management, the value of this legitimacy declines with each woman.”
Fear of Professional Rivalry
Fraser says that “it used to be believed that women were less likely to help others with career advancement because of fear of professional rivalry or of being undermined.”
“But our research shows that the notion that female senior executives are ‘queen bees’ who are unwilling to support other women needs to be put to rest.”
In fact, she says, the real reason for the shortage of women in top positions is because men still cling on to control.
Top Management Team at 1,500 Companies
Fraser and her team studied top management teams at 1,500 companies over a 20-year period. They found that far from stopping women climbing the career ladder, a female chief executive was more likely to appoint women in senior positions.
The study concludes that the most likely explanation for the failure of more women to break the glass ceiling was a desire among men to keep them out of the boardroom.
“Too many companies feel that by appointing one woman they have somehow ticked the ‘diversity box’ and don’t need to appoint anymore,” Fraser says.